Wednesday, February 24, 2021

silent language



When the monks had found their homes,
they not only settled there, 
for better or for worse,
but the sank their roots into the ground
and fell in love with their woods...
Forest and field, sun wind and sky, 
earth and water,
all speak the same silent language,
reminding the monk that he is here
to develop like the things that 
grow all around him... 
~ Thomas Merton
from the introduction to
When the Trees say Nothing
 edited by Kathleen Deignan

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

the rock and the wind


there are five courses of speech that others may use when they address you;
their speech may be timely or untimely,
true or untrue,
gentle or harsh,
connected with good or with harm,
or spoken with a mind of lovingkindness or with inner hate... should train yourself thus: 
Our minds will remain unaffected,
and we shall utter no evil words;
we shall abide compassionate for their welfare,
with a mind of lovingkindness...
~ the Buddha

Is that so?

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parent owned a food store lived near him.
  Suddenly,  without any warning,  her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents angry.  She would not confess who the man was, 
 but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parents went to the master.   "Is that so?"  was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. 
 By this time he had lost his reputation,  which did not trouble him, 
 but he took very good care of the child. 
 He obtained milk from his neighbors and 
everything else the little one needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer.  
 She told her parents the truth - that the real father of the child
 was a young man who worked in the fish market.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness,
  to apologize at length,  and to get the child back again.
Hakuin was willing.  In yielding the child,  all he said was: "Is that so?"

~ from 'Zen Flesh Zen Bones',
 compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
Self-portrait by Hakuin Ekaku

Sunday, February 21, 2021



What is transcended is not responsibility for one’s misdeeds;
rather it is the model of sequential piling up of one’s actions
 in such a way that one is forced to react unskillfully in the future.
 Dōgen’s “great practice” is the bodhisattva practice
 of incorporating and responding to the whole of our situation,
 thereby deeply seeing cause and effect. 
As soon as we return to the totality of this moment’s complete expression, 
we are not caught by anything. Even though we are still subject to the repercussions
 of our past actions, we are free to respond skillfully
 in the present moment.

If we have been rude to someone in the past and that person is wary of us,
 our total participation in this moment of meeting that person
 will not necessarily take away the effects of our past meeting. 
What it will do is free us to respond skillfully in this situation. 
Since we are not caught by “piled up” or overlapping experiences, 
we are freed to enact the new paradigm of “great practice.”

Another example: If you are playing baseball and you drop the ball, 
you don’t let your mistakes “pile up.” You must forget dropping the ball
 and be present for the next opportunity to catch the ball. 
Holding on to a past mistake will often hinder your ability
 to respond skillfully in the present, although you still file away your mistake
 and make adjustments. 
From the point of view of practice this would translate to
 making a mistake, acknowledging the mistake, atoning for that mistake,
 and moving on from the mistake.

Dōgen points out that our understanding of self 
can become a fixed idea of accumulated traits or experiences. 
He observes, for example, that spring, autumn, and ourselves
 are independent moments that are not the results of being piled up. 
He writes, “This means that we cannot see the four elements
 and five aggregates of the present as our self 
and we cannot trace them as someone else.” 
The self is both independent and the totality of all being-time. 
We are no-self and a particular self at the same time, 
caught by neither and more than both.
 In the case of practice-realization, we are not waiting
 for a particular set of experiences to line up or pile up,
 thereby creating the circumstances for realization. 
Realization is present in each moment. 
Realization is each moment. 
It is true that we may progress in our practice,
 but realization is not predicated upon a particular set of circumstances, 
since it is actualized being-time: a response to our current circumstances.

In concrete terms, this means we must engage and fulfill
 our understanding of practice in each moment,
 not putting it off. A student once said,
 “I know what is skillful, 
but I don’t want to do it right now.” 
This kind of procrastination usually arises when our small self 
is trying to avoid facing a situation that will cause us to look at our own faults. 

~ Shinshu Roberts
from an article on Dōgen in Insight Journal
 Barre Center for Buddhist Studies  
excerpted from Being-Time: 
A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's Shobogenzo Uji:
 Wisdom Publ. 2018
art by Van Gogh

blaming the past



We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past
 for any kind of situation we’re in and reverse our thinking
 and see that the past always flows back from the present.
 That now is the creative point of life. 
So you see it’s like the idea of forgiving somebody, 
you change the meaning of the past by doing that. 
Also, watch the flow of music.
 The melody as it’s expressed is changed by notes that come later.
 Just as the meaning of a sentence—
you wait till later to find out what the sentence means… 
The present is always changing the past.

~ Alan Watts
art from the book: If you come to Earth
by Sophie Blackall

Saturday, February 20, 2021

no matter where I am


In the peaceful places of my life, wherever I may find them,
 I will search for you. In the midst of the crowd, 
I will look for you. In the sound of laughter and weeping,
 I will listen for you. You are around me, within me,
 beside me, no matter where I am. 
You are everywhere at once and always.
 When I go up to the highest point of joy I know, you are waiting for me. 
When I fall to my lowest point, you catch me.
 When I am alone in the deep night, you hold me. 
You are forever, in all places, in every moment. 
You let me go at the right time. You release me to the open air.
 You trust me. And I, in all that I do, and say, and believe, trust you.
 I have since the beginning. I will until the end. 
You are my creator, my simple truth, 
what I believe and why I believe,
 the sum total of my life’s experience.
 I have made my choice and pledged my love.
 I am in this with you, in every way I can be, for as long as I can be, 
until your mystery surrounds me and the next dream begins.

~ Steven Charleston
Citizen of Choctaw Nation
retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska
with thanks to louie, louie

Monday, February 15, 2021

who speaks


Who speaks the sound of an echo?
Who paints the image in a mirror?
Where are the spectacles in a dream?
Nowhere at all - that's the nature of the mind!

~ Tree-Leaf Woman, (8th - 11th c.)
tantric Buddhist women's song
from Women in Praise of the Sacred
painting: undergrowth by Van Gogh

Sunday, February 14, 2021

to clear away


The true purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to clear away
whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us. . . .

It will be in order to suggest certain simple aids to this end. 
One of these is the practice of silence, or quiet. 
As a child I was accustomed to spend many hours alone in my rowboat,
 fishing along the river, when there was no sound 
save the lapping of the waves against the boat. 
There were times when it seemed as if the earth 
and the river and the sky and I were one beat of the same pulse. 
It was a time of watching and waiting for what I did not know—
yet I always knew. 
There would come a moment when beyond the single pulse beat
 there was a sense of Presence which seemed always to speak to me. 
My response to the sense of Presence always had the quality of personal communion. 
There was no voice. There was no image. There was no vision.
 There was God. 
Howard Thurman
from Disciplines of the Spirit
 photo above by Jordan McChesney
 with thanks to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation 



Friday, February 12, 2021

already broken



Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master,
 "In this world where everything changes, 
where nothing remains the same,
 where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence,
 how can there be any happiness?
 How can we find security when we see that
 we can't count on anything being the way we want it to be?"
 The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow,
 held up a drinking glass which had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, 
"You see this goblet? 
For me, this glass is already broken.
 I enjoy it, I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably,
 sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns.
 If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. 
But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over
 or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, 
I say, 'Of course.' 
But when I understand this glass is already broken,
 every moment with it is precious.
 Every moment is just as it is and nothing need be otherwise."

When we recognize that, just as that glass, 
our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, 
then life becomes precious and we open to it just as it is, 
in the moment it is occurring.
 When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead -
 our children, our mates, our friends - how precious they become.
 How little fear can interpose, how little doubt can estrange us.
 When you live your life as though you're already dead, 
life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime,
 a universe unto itself.

When we realize we are already dead, our priorities change,
 our heart opens, our mind begins to clear of the fog of old holdings and pretendings.
 We watch all life in transit and what matters becomes instantly apparent:
 The transmission of love, the letting go of obstacles to understanding, 
the relinquishment of our grasping, our hiding from ourselves. 
Seeing the mercilessness of our self-strangulation,
 we begin to come gently into the light we share with all beings. 
Taking each teaching, each loss, each gain, each fear, each joy,
 as it arises and experiencing it fully, life becomes workable...

If our only spiritual practice were to live as though we were already dead, 
relating to all we meet, to all we do, as though it were our final moments in the world,
 what time would there be for old games or falsehoods or posturing? 
If we lived our life as though we were already dead, 
as though our children were already dead, 
how much time would there be for self-protection 
and the re-creation of ancient mirages?
 Only love would be appropriate, only the truth.

Stephen and Ondrea Levine
Excerpt: Who Dies?
with thanks to being silently drawn

work perfectly realized

In work perfectly realized 
there is no thought of reward, 
no love of procedure, 
no seeking after good, 
no clinging to goals, 
whether of attainment 
or of god himself.
~ Meister Eckhart 
art by Harlan Hubbard, "Below Madison," 1934

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

a man whose eyes love opens

The other birds in turn received their chance
To show off their loquacious ignorance.
All made their excuses - floods of foolish words
Flowed from these babbling, rumor-loving birds.
Forgive me, reader, if I do not say
All these excuses to avoid the Way;
But in an incoherent rush they came,
And all were inappropriate and lame.
How could they gain the Simorgh?  Such a goal
Belongs to those who discipline the soul.
The hoopoe counseled them: 'The world holds few
As worthy of the Simorgh's throne as you,
But you must empty this first glass; the wine
That follows it is love's devoted sign.
If petty problems keep you back - or none -
How will you seek the treasures of the sun?
In drops you lose yourselves, yet you must dive
Through untold fathoms and remain alive.
This is no journey for the indolent -
Our quest is Truth itself, not just its scent!'

When they had understood the hoopoe's words,
A clamor of complaint rose from the birds:
'Although we recognize you as our guide,
You must accept - it cannot be denied -
We are a wretched, flimsy crew at best,
And lack the bare essentials for this quest.
Our feathers and our wings, our bodies' strength
Are quite unequal to the journey's length;
For one of us to reach the Simorgh's throne
Would be miraculous, a thing unknown.
At least say what relationship obtains
Between His might and ours; who can take pains
To search for mysteries when he is blind?
If there were some connection we could find,
We would be more prepared to take our chance.
He seems like Solomon, and we like ants;
How can mere ants climb from their darkened pit
Up to the Simorgh's realm?  And is it fit
That beggars try the glory of a king?
How ever could they manage such a thing?'

The hoopoe answered them:  'How can love thrive
in hearts impoverished and half alive?
"Beggars," you say - such niggling poverty
Will not encourage truth or charity.
A man whose eyes love opens risks his soul -
His dancing breaks beyond the mind's control.
When long ago the Simorgh first appeared -
His face like sunlight when the clouds have cleared -
He cast unnumbered shadows on the earth,
On each one fixed His eyes, and each gave birth.
Thus we were born; the birds of every land
Are still his shadows - think, and understand.
If you had known this secret you would you would see
The link between yourselves and majesty.
Do not reveal this truth, and God for-fend
That you mistake for God Himself God's friend.
If you become that substance I propound,
You are not God, though in God you are drowned;
Those lost in Him are not the Deity -
This problem can be argued endlessly.
You are His shadow, and cannot be moved
By thoughts of life or death once this is proved.
If He had kept His majesty concealed,
No earth shadow would have been revealed,
And where that shadow was directly cast
The race of bird sprang up before it passed.
Your heart is not a mirror bright and clear
If there the Simorgh's form does not appear;
No one can bear His beauty face to face,
And for this reason, of His perfect grace,
He makes a mirror in our hearts - look there
To see Him, search your hearts with anxious care.

~ Farid Attar
from The Conference of Birds
translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

the resemblance between your life and a dog

I never intended to have this life, believe me --
It just happened.  You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can't explain.

It's good if you can accept your life - you'll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it.  Your face thought your life would look

Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can't believe how much you've changed.

Sparrows in winter, if you've ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges.  Teachers praise you,

But you can't quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Your life is a dog.  He's been hungry for miles,
Doesn't particularly like you, but gives up, and comes in.

~ Robert Bly
from Eating the Honey of Words


Indeterminacy means, literally: not fixed, not settled, uncertain, indefinite.
 It means that you don't know where you are. 
How can it be otherwise, say the Buddhist teachings, 
since you have no fixed or inherent identity 
and are ceaselessly in process?
Life is filled with uncertainty.  Chance events happen to all of us. 
Each of us must take responsibility and make decisions. 
None of us should be imposing our ego image on others.

There's another way to live.
 Accept indeterminacy as a principle,
 and you see your life in a new light,
 as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories 
within a dazzling setting of change and transformation.
 Recognize that you don't know where you stand,
 and you will begin to watch where you put your feet.
 That's when the path appears.

~ John Cage
from Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, 
Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists
by Kay Larson


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

be open

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile


In 1926, Cummings' father was killed in a car accident. Though severely injured, Cummings' mother survived. Cummings detailed the accident in the following passage from his i: six nonlectures series given at Harvard (as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) in 1952–1953:

... a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing – dazed but erect – beside a mangled machine; with blood spouting (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away.

His father's death had a profound impact on Cummings, who entered a new period in his artistic life. Cummings began to focus on more important aspects of life in his poetry. He began this new period by paying homage to his father's memory in the poem "my father moved through dooms of love"

Born into a Unitarian family, Cummings exhibited transcendental leanings his entire life. As he grew in maturity and age, Cummings moved more toward an "I, Thou" relationship with God. His journals are replete with references to “le bon Dieu” as well as prayers for inspiration in his poetry and artwork (such as “Bon Dieu! may I some day do something truly great. amen.”). Cummings "also prayed for strength to be his essential self ('may I be I is the only prayer--not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong'), and for relief of spirit in times of depression ('almighty God! I thank thee for my soul; & may I never die spiritually into a mere mind through disease of loneliness')."

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

~ from Wikipedia

the starting point

Images, however sacred
they may be, retain
the attention outside,
whereas at the time of prayer
the attention must be within -
in the heart.  The concentration
of attention in the heart -
this is the starting point of prayer.

~ Saint Theophan the Recluse
from for lovers of god everywhere
compiled by Roger Housden

deepest prayer

A person should always offer a prayer of graciousness 
for the love that has awakened in them. 
When you feel love for your beloved and his or her love for you, 
now and again you should offer the warmth of your love 
as a blessing for those who are damaged and unloved. 

Send that love out into the world to people who are desperate; 
to those who are starving; to those who are trapped in prison; 
in hospitals and all the brutal terrains of bleak and tormented lives. 

When you send that love out from the bountifulness of your own love, 
it reaches other people. 
This love is the deepest power of prayer.

~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara

Sunday, February 7, 2021

one art


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop
 with thanks to brainpickings

Saturday, February 6, 2021



Lead me from dreaming to waking.
Lead me from opacity to clarity.
Lead me from the complicated to the simple.
Lead me from the obscure to the obvious.
Lead me from intention to attention.
Lead me from what I'm told I am to what I see I am.
Lead me from confrontation to wide openness.
Lead me to the place I never left,
Where there is peace, and peace

~ The Upanishads